GUIDELINES FOR BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY IN
Owners of home-based businesses face unique challenges in the realm of achieving a desired work/family balance. Whereas small business owners who commute to their place of business everyday are usually freed from child-rearing responsibilities for the duration of their time there, entrepreneurs who work out of their home often have to devise methods in which they can both attend to the needs of their business and provide adequate attention to their children.
Researchers and home-based business owners tout several steps that can be taken to assist entrepreneurs in meeting these twin challenges.
- Establish a family-friendly business
This sounds simple, but in reality all home-based businesses are not created equal. Some may provide a parent with significant freedom in structuring business around his or her children’s schedule, while others may not provide nearly the same level of flexibility.
- Communicate with spouse and/or others
Establishing and maintaining a home-based business requires changes in the routines of all family members, not just the entrepreneur. Changes in travel schedules, household chore allocation, and other areas of family life may all need to be made. The key to making sure that such changes are made with a minimum of disruption and/or resentment is open, honest communication.
- Make maximum use of free time
Home-based entrepreneurs can dramatically increasetheir productivity – and keep a lid on feelings of frustration – by scheduling demanding and/or important work obligations for times when child supervision obligations are minimal. Nap times, pre-school sessions, extracurricular programs, etc. canall provide parents with valuable windows of opportunity to attend to vital work-related matters.
- Prioritize and establish a daily schedule
Business owners who work out of their home should avoid falling into a routine in which tasks – both family- and work-related – are addressed in a haphazard, “as they come up” fashion. Instead they should try to establish a daily or weekly schedule. Work discipline can be difficult to maintain at home even without children; their presence further compounds the challenge.
- Establish an office area that is physically removed from the rest of the house.
People who attempt to take care of work while situated in the heart of a child’s play area are apt to experience high levels of frustration. Instead, home-based entrepreneurs should consider establishing an office in a separate area that includes all necessary equipment to conduct business. Moreover, children should be taught to respect the importance of that area.
Another option which may be more popular with parents of toddlers and young children is to create a “child-friendly” office with a corner that is set aside for their needs.
- Communicate the importance of your work to children
Home-based entrepreneurs should make a special effort to educate their children about the importance of the work they are doing. Share your victories, challenges and rewards, as often as possible. If your children feel like they are part of what you are doing, they will be much more supportive than if they see your business as something that is just taking you away from them.
- Enjoy your family
Many home-based business owners may create such a situation for themselves for the express purpose of spending greater time with their mates or children, yet find themselves frustrated with the demands on time and energy that those people invariably make during the course of everyday. Counselors urge home-based entrepreneurs not to lose sight of why they made the decision to operate out of the home in the first place.
Owning a business is not something to take lightly. It requires planning to achieve an appropriate balance between work and family that all interested parties can live with. Make time for family; acknowledge you are taking them on the wildest ride of their lives. Find a mentor to help you through the rough times. Know your limits. Know that unhealthy relationships will worsen, and solid ones could waver.